West Lafayette, Indiana
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Looking forward to getting back to practice. Got beat — 28-0, in our passing situation — pass protection got a lot of work to do and our guys are working hard, got to do things to help them improve, got to stick to the grind, and I think our players will respond.
Got a great opportunity, some big wins this season, Saturday in our home stadium, get back on the field and showcase that we like to play the game of football.
They have got two graduate transfers from Clemson, Ohio State, do a good job for them and some good players around them some, good speed on the offense, as well.
So it will be, once again, a tough contest and we’re going to have to have a good week of practice and come ready to play.
Q. The depth chart, can you give any updates on guys, like will we see Lorenzo this week, do you think?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: No Lorenzo Neal. He’ll be out. Who else?
Q. Looks like Sheffield and Rice?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Sheffield’s out.
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: That’s too early to tell. Anthony Watts is out.
Q. What about — Sparks is still out, too?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: That one, too early to tell.
Q. Any chance we would see a Richie Worship?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: We’re working hard to get him back. I wouldn’t count on it but we’re working hard to get him and Tario back. They have both been able to practice a little bit. I am hopeful at some point, but no, I would doubt this week.
Q. Talked after the game about how the defense has success when it started to mix things up; you can’t play base defense. Continuing to see that from the defense this week?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, I think we have to have some creativity. I think, you know, they got off to a good start, scored the first four times they touched it, and when you watch the video, they honestly didn’t run a lot. A little bit of zone read, and they were able to get five yards on every punch, a little playaction off it.
They were able to get success there. Hit a couple big throws. You know, we really didn’t knock them back at all, until we started to mix in a few things, showed a few blitzes, get them a little bit on their heels. I think we made progress, and I do think our guys played hard, which is good to see, but we have got to continue to coach this thing up, and you know, take some chances and our guys just got to play hard.
Q. Any radical changes on the offensive line? Talk about the three new starters.
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, you know, we want to try to still have some competition but definitely try to maybe start to settle on some guys we feel good about. I think Grant Hermanns has the most experience up front, him and Matt McCann. Those two guys have to play well for us in order for us to do well.
Then when you look beyond that, I think Will Bramel is going to be a good player. We want to create some competition there. Eric Miller played a little bit. Those guys will both play at that position. I think at the left guard position, Mark Stickford as of right now will get the nod, depending how practice goes, and Alex Criddle will play, as well. Those guys will rotate. You saw Jimmy McKenna at the very end. We’ll see how he practices this week at the center position.
Victor has been injured all year. He hasn’t practiced hardly at all, and I think he gives us his all during the game, but he can’t function the way he normally would if he was healthy, and it’s hurt us.
So we’re going to let Sam go out there and play as hard as he can and see how that goes and he’ll be backed up by Bramel and Victor, and wouldn’t surprise me if you see those guys play but we’re going to give Sam a shot to go out there healthy.
I think just Victor’s health has hurt him where we want to — we’ve got to be careful how we practice him, which we have been and we just have to make sure that he’s ready to go, as well.
Q. We talked real quick last week about the tight ends, Hopkins, I think he has 14 catches this year and Payne Durham has three. Talk about what you’re trying to do to get those guys the ball. Has it been frustrating for you because I’m sure you want to feature offense?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Every week we go back and look at it, and we’ve called multiple plays that are designed to go to the tight end. We’ve struggled quite a bit when our tight ends are pressed, or they get some man coverage. We haven’t gotten off press very long.
What happens with that is you have a little more time for them to work to get open and we haven’t had the time. That’s happened multiple times. There’s been other times as the game went on, our tight end was open on some plays and can’t get it to him. I think after our quarterback got hit so much, he got a little gunshy, which can happen. I’ve been there. It can happen.
So it’s been a combination of everything, and yes, we need to find a way to have our tight ends be more productive. I didn’t think they were great in the running game and of course, we weren’t able to give them the ball in the passing game. We’ve got to get better at it.
Q. Is Anthony Watts a long-term injury?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: It’s at least going to be a while. We’ll know more after an MRI today.
Q. And how do you project that defensive front to look now without him in that rotation?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, I think some of the things that hurt us a little bit, you know, some lack of depth at certain positions now is creeping up on us. I even know at the receiver position, our guys played hard but the lack of depth, they had to play a lot and got tired and it showed.
I think on the defensive line, George Karlaftis has been our most steady performer each and every week. I think Derrick Barnes has done some things and Kai Higgins goes hard. Lawrence, you know, done okay.
So I see Kai Higgins and Lawrence being our starting defensive tackles and we have to rotate some back-ups there, and we have, and Jack Sullivan and Branson Deen. We have to get more production out of them, quite frankly, especially the interior of our defensive line. We just have to work hard at it and we also have to be creative to find ways to bring some pressure to alleviate being knocked off the football.
Q. Would an option be playing George Karlaftis in snaps inside, as well?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, he’s done such a good job on the outside for us. While we looked at it, I don’t know if that’s the best option. Got some big interior linemen he’s going to have to go against and really that’s kind of the issue we have right now, when you look at our defensive tackles, their weight is not what it needs to be. Their mass is not what it needs to be. Because of that, we’re getting pushed back.
You know, right now, that’s what we’ve got to do, but it’s been exposed at times, so yes, we’ve got to be creative with some things and move some things around and slant a little bit more, blitz a little bit more, bring guys up the middle and mix in a few more different fronts.
That gets into coaching, and sometimes you’ve got to have the perfect balance of being creative but also not doing too much where you lose your fundamentals and your techniques on all the sound things you do.
That’s been the dilemma, making sure you have enough, and making sure your guys know what to do.
Q. You talked about being more creative on defense early. In simple terms, do you want to see more aggressiveness out of your defense maybe early in the game or early downs?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: You know, I think if you watch the game, as we got going into it, we showed more looks. We disguised better. We walked guys up and showed all-out blitzes and sometimes brought it and sometimes kicked out of it, and that has to happen.
I think when we did that, we got them on their heels early on. You try to play what you think will work, and they were just marching right down the field.
So that wasn’t working, and so that’s why we — yes, we need to start, you know, mixing things up a little bit more. Need to be a little more creative, which I do think happened as the game went on. I liked what we did. I do like what we did and how our guys played hard in the second half, but yeah, it’s got to be a constant and we’ve got to, you know, feel comfortable with it and roll with it.
Q. Do you anticipate Jalen Graham staying at nickel and if so, what do you like about him at that position, as opposed to playing safety all the time?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, I think Jalen is a young player. He’s still a true freshman. He’s going to make a few mistakes and going to learn on the job, but he’s a big, athletic body. I think when it’s all said and done, that’s his best position. He’s going to end up being a nickel/outside linebacker that can play in the back end if you need him.
But his size and toughness are his strengths and you know, he made some mistakes and got beat once or twice. But I do think he practices hard and he’ll continue to improve, and we’ve got to just roll with Jalen and let him learn on the job and do good as he can.
Q. You had Marc listed on your depth chart —
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: He’s out. He’s out. He got hurt the first play. He was scheduled to start and didn’t make it to the first play.
Q. Is that long-term or week-to-week?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: It’s going to be a while. I don’t know how long it will be, but it will be a little while.
Q. I assume Mackey moves up to that spot?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: I think right now, Cory Trice was our most consistent guy in the last game, and Major and Dedrick Mackey will rotate in there.
So right now, it will probably be a three-man rotation at the two corner positions.
Q. What do you like about what Trice has given you at cornerback since he made the move late in camp?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: I think he’s practiced well. I think he gives us good size and athleticism and he is green at the position, there’s not a question about it, but I think because of his length, he’s able to recover at times. I think he played hard.
I think he didn’t play scared. There wasn’t fear in him, which is what you’ve got to see at corner. You can’t have it. You get beat once or twice, you can’t have it. I don’t like to see guys running out of there, flying so fast. I want to be able to challenge some routes and sit on some things a little bit and I want to be able to read the quarterback. I think he tried to do those things and that’s what we need. We need guys to play aggressive and play with confidence, and I think he did a good job of that.
Q. Looking at the offensive line and the struggles they have had, are they just struggling with just one-on-one blocks or are teams slanting and twisting and doing a lot of different things, maybe to confuse them? They are inexperienced, most of them are inexperienced at that position, but where are you having the most troubles on the offensive line?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: You know, I like our group. They are working hard. They are trying to get better. We are not where we need to be. That’s a fact. I think that early in the game, Matt McCann got off late on the cadence and guy ran around him, you know, because of the noise and the sound count and the building, that got us off to a bad start.
When we got down 28-0, you have to truly pass protect and drop back more than you like to, which we went into the game not want to go do that because we knew these guys were good up front.
We got beat. You know what, some guys do a good job, and it just seems on every play there’s one guy that’s having a hard time and that’s the thing that’s getting exposed. You know, you’ve just got to continue to work at it. I think they are working hard, and got to figure out ways to put them in better positions to succeed. We thought we had a decent plan going into the game of not dropping back and pass protecting the whole game and mixing in a lot of screens and moving the pocket and playaction, but when you’re down that fast, the playaction kind of goes out the window to a certain degree. We still hit a couple of them, but it was a long day and it was not a good day up front.
Q. Maryland is one of the top return teams in the nation in kickoff and punt return. What about what they have done concerns you going into this game?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, they have got good speed and they have got good speed at the skill positions. I think when you look at us and covering punts, last week we kind of — I think our guys thought the guy caught it the first time and we stopped, and we allowed them out another time.
For us, we have to adjust some things and we did. I think we went with the rugby punt a couple times. Going to have to mix things up, not just kick it to their best guy. I think Brooks has a bright future, but consistency has been an issue. We knew it would be; it was in fall camp and when he doesn’t hit it well, it’s going to hurt us. So we have to continue to provide competition there and get better at it.
But we have to find a way to get an edge, and that’s just being sound in your coverage units, and it’s trying to find a way when we return it, gain an edge and without Rondale back there, that’s been a little tougher to do.
Q. Some of your circumstances this season in terms of the guys you don’t have, have they changed your view or how you apply the new four-game redshirt rule?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, we’re playing a lot of young guys. So there are some that aren’t ready that are getting closer, and yes, they are going to — there are probably going to be more guys playing as we go through the season. We just don’t want to put them in for a few plays. We want to make sure if someone goes down or that position is really, really struggling, they will go in.
Otherwise, want to continue to get them ready and we get towards the middle of the season, or even now if we need them, they will play, because you can play and sit out a game or two if you have to to still keep that redshirt.
But if guys are going to play, they are going to play and if we need them, we are going to play them. There’s no question about that. But we’re going to be smart with guys that still need some development and you have to be careful throwing out guys before they are ready because you can lose confidence.
Even King (ph), I don’t want him to lose confidence. He’s a really good runner and we haven’t been doing a good job of creating holes and openings for him at times, so I don’t want him to lose confidence. I think you’ll probably see, you know, Hewitt enter the mix, as well, as we get going because we need more guys at that position.
Q. Did looked like Jaylan Alexander did some positive things for you. Did he help himself a little bit at Penn State?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Yes, Jaylan did help himself. I think that we have been looking for him to show up and be a playmaker for us. This was the first game he really got to play a lot. His overall knowledge and instincts, we just wanted to improve a little bit and I think in the game, he allowed himself to relax and go play. When he did, he did a good job. It was good to see Jalen step up and do some good things. We’re going to need him to continue to improve and play well.
Q. How does Maryland change if the backup quarterback is going to play, an RPO guy. Tell us how that changes your prep?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: That’s kind of what they like to do. They are going to continue to run the run-pass and have an athletic quarterback. Against Minnesota, gave us a lot of problems. We’re going to have work hard to defend it, and that means being in position. That doesn’t mean everyone just suck up for the run every time they do it and leave huge openings in the secondary. We have to be smart in our design and our approach and also how we attack and fit what they are doing. But that’s what they are trying to do, to suck up and create big lanes to throw the football, which is much easier in the run-pass game than dropping back.
That’s kind of how they beat Syracuse very badly. They crushed them in the run-bass game and created huge hope openings and got big plays. In the Minnesota game, that’s where we got gashed, as well. We have to work hard on that. That’s what their strength is, and having speed at the skill positions and getting in their hand in space, we have to do a good job.
Q. What stands out to you most about this Maryland team? They put up a lot of points last week against Rutgers. What have you seen on film that stands out to you?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: I think they definitely are playing with more confidence. I think they are sound in what they are doing. I think on defense, they have got a sound scheme that they feel good about and they challenge routes and they mix things up.
Offensively, they try to spread you out and at skill, go to work and create plays. I think when you look, the Syracuse game was a statement game they made, and you know, they had a big — they bounced back last week and had a big win against Rutgers where they dominated the game.
This team knows how to play football. They know how to coach and they are coming in with some confidence, so we have to step up to the challenge.
Q. As far as your rushing attack, you got put in a situation where you have to throw the football more being down 28 points. Where do you feel like you’re at with King and Zander and where do you want to be at this week with the rushing game?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Where do I want to be? I want to be a lot better than what we are.
Right now, we feel good about kings running ability. Zander got a little bit injured in the last game and it’s been up and down a little bit. We’ve got to create some holes. We have to create some movement. We have to move some people up front. Two games ago, we had a couple different designs because we knew the front we were going to see and it worked and helped create some yards this past game and it was better and tougher to get that done and when we got down it was tougher to run the ball.
In one-on-one matchups, we were not productive and we did not move people back. When we had perfect looks, in our opinion, we did not move people back. We did not get positive yards. So that was very frustrating. We’ve got to work harder at it and we’ve got to, you know, be dedicated to getting it done and we’ve got to work hard to improve it and that’s myself, our coaches, our players, and you know, we can’t give in.
So it’s going to be a work-in-progress, but we’ve got to work hard at it.
Q. George continues to be a bright spot it seems, from a fan’s standpoint, anyway. What is he doing well and why is he having this type of success early?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: You are correct. In our opinion, George has been outstanding and he has been a stand out player on the defensive side of the ball. He’s played a lot of snaps. He goes extremely hard. He works hard. He gives great effort. He studies it. He practices hard. You can coach him, and he’ll listen and adjust. And really just a relentless player on the defensive Sid of the ball that cares about winning. If we could have 11 Georges, we’d be sitting pretty good.
But I do think that it rubs off on others to a certain degree. I think he’s a good leader by example, but he’s been outstanding for us and very proud of the production that he’s had. I think he has a tremendous future.
Q. With it being Homecoming and expecting another great crowd, how much of a difference can they make Saturday?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Our crowd’s been outstanding and we appreciate all the support. They have given us everything they can and they have done a tremendous job. We have to do our part. I think our players understand, we come home and play in front of our home crowd, we have to take some pride in it.
It’s got to mean something to us. We have to be willing to put in the work in order to try to go out and compete and get better. We know it’s not going to be easy and we’re going to have to fight through it but that’s what has to happen. That’s what I want to see. I want to see some fight in our guys. I want to see our guys play hard, and I want to see some guys that want to win when they take the field for all the support they have given us.
Q. Where does Cam Allen fit into the secondary? Got on the field against Penn State early, and then the targeting call removed him. Where does he fit in?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: You know what, Cam is scheduled to play quite a bit. He’s our backup nickel and he’s basically one of our three safeties at the two position, so he was going to rotate in there and he was in there, you know, at the end of the game, or at least as they got going.
He’s going to play for us. I think he’s got instincts. He has some similar traits to George, as far as he works hard. He practices hard. He wants to do great things. He competes. A little bit farther ways to go and he’s got to get stronger and be able to read things, because you know, he’s coming in — you look at Cam and you look at Jalen Graham, they both played quarterback last year. So these guys haven’t played a lot of defense.
It’s going to take a little bit of an adjustment, but I think I would put my money that those two guys in the long run are going to be very productive, outstanding players for us. It’s just going to take a little time. But I love the way he competes, and you know, you can coach him and he wants to win, as well. I think those are two really good, young leaders that will continue to improve because of their work ethic.
Q. What’s the benefit of having former quarterbacks in your secondary?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: Well, I would hope it is a benefit. You know, you’ve been there. You’ve done. It you know what route structures are, what they are trying to accomplish. You can read the quarterback’s eyes. I would hope that would be a huge plus.
But still, you’ve got to take it on the field and work on it and use that and understand that knowledge should be a bonus.
Q. On the updated depth chart, we got quarterback, Plummer or O’Connell. “Or” is listed there. Is that true or —
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: That is correct.
Q. Does Jack have an issue?
HEAD COACH JEFF BROHM: No. Jack competed extremely hard. He gave us great effort and he did some good things.
Now when you get hit that many times, you know, you’re going to struggle a little towards the end and we took a lot of sacks. So we just want to make sure there’s competition at every position.
So I think Aidan O’Connell is a guy that could play or he may not play, depending on how this week goes. You know, every position, we want all of our guys to know that we are going to need production, and I understand the circumstances, and I am proud of the effort Jack has given us and I think he’s done some good things.
But I do want to make sure that even at that position, we know there’s competition.